This week marks National Suicide Prevention Week, per the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This campaign aims to connect individuals and their loved ones and to increase the amount of conversations that are had about suicide, decrease the stigma that comes from talking about it, and hopefully, saving someone’s life.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is active not just this week, but throughout the year hoping to increase awareness, and provide resources for individuals who feel that they have run out of options. Each year, approximately 1 million individuals die from taking their own lives. Risk factors, including age (those who are 15-24, or those who are over 60), family history, substance abuse, and depression, increase the likelihood that suicidal thoughts or actions may be experienced. Knowing the warning signs can help keep loved ones safe, and help them find the help that they need.
Individuals who talk about death or wanting to die, or talk about feeling hopeless or not having a reason to live should be taken seriously. A thankfully decreasing “myth” is that those who “talk” about suicide aren’t “serious.” This could not be further from the truth. Even if a person is wanting attention, this is attention worth giving, as they literally need the attention to save their lives. Of course there is the minority of individuals who weaponize this gesture, yet they still need help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers support for distress, not just suicidality, and it is always better to be safe, rather than sorry.
Those that share a plan, or begin to use substances more often are also in danger, and need immediate help. Withdrawing from friends, changing eating or sleeping habits, giving important items away or attempting to put their affairs in order are all major warning signs that an individual may need more immediate and significant help.
So if you, or a loved one, is feeling suicidal, what can be done? In an immediate crisis, 911 or a visit to the emergency room is warranted. This is daunting, scary, and overwhelming, and it can help to have support. At that point, the professionals will determine if an inpatient stay, or a level of care between hospitalization and outpatient therapy, is necessary to keep you or a loved one safe. A psychiatric hospitalization is typically not for long term care, but rather is there to help stabilize, de-escalate, and craft a care plan.
A therapist can help identify the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that led to this experience, and will likely work collaboratively not just with you/your loved one, but other members of a therapeutic treatment team to make sure that safety is accounted for. A psychiatrist may consider anti-depressants or a mood stabilizer, if they are indicated. Group support can also be helpful, to know that you or your loved one is not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has local chapters as well as virtual supports, not just for the individual grappling with suicide, but also for survivors, loved ones, and family members as well.
This week, the conversations around suicide are increasing, but the need for awareness and support is a constant. If we can be of help, contact us. We are here, for you.